Beyond mobile phones: exploring using technology to support sustained engagement in care for HIV-infected women on antiretroviral therapy

AIDS Care. 2020 Aug;32(8):959-964. doi: 10.1080/09540121.2020.1737639. Epub 2020 Mar 5.


Disengagement from HIV care has emerged as a challenge to the success of universal test and treat strategies for HIV-infected women. Technology may enhance efforts to monitor and support engagement in HIV care, but implementation barriers and facilitators need to be evaluated. We conducted a mixed-method study among HIV-infected, pregnant women and healthcare workers (HCWs) in Malawi to evaluate barriers and facilitators to three technologies to support monitoring HIV care: (1) text messaging, (2) SIM card scanning and (3) biometric fingerprint scanning. We included 123 HIV-infected, pregnant women and 85 HCWs in a survey, 8 focus group discussions and 5 in-depth interviews. Biometric fingerprint scanning emerged as the preferred strategy to monitor engagement in HIV care. Among HCWs, 70% felt biometrics were very feasible, while 48% thought text messaging and SIM card scanning were feasible. Nearly three quarters (72%) of surveyed women reported they would be very comfortable using biometrics to monitor HIV appointments. Barriers to using text messaging and SIM card scanning included low phone ownership (35%), illiteracy concerns, and frequent selling or changing of mobile phones. Future work is needed to explore the feasibly of implementing biometric fingerprint scanning or other technologies to monitor engagement in HIV care.

Keywords: HIV; biometrics; engagement in HIV care; mobile phones; pregnancy; technology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active / methods*
  • Cell Phone*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Malawi
  • Patient Participation*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnant Women
  • Qualitative Research
  • Text Messaging*